The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has left many active duty servicemembers, veterans, and Afghan people with a sense of betrayal and deep concern. Many U.S. veterans question what they were fighting for in Afghanistan, all the while deeply mourning those that did not make it home and those whom they left behind who aided the war effort—Afghan interpreters, their families, and military allies. The term being used to describe what many veterans are feeling is not only betrayal, but moral injury. Moral injury is the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses, or fails to prevent acts that transgress one’s own moral beliefs, values, or ethical codes of conduct. To address these challenges, the Moral Injury Project of Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel, in affiliation with Le Moyne College, has organized a community conversation entitled “Leaving Afghanistan: Moral Injury and the Forever War.”
The event will take place on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 (5:30-7:30 p.m.) at Le Moyne College’s Grewen Auditorium on the third floor of Grewen Hall. A virtual option for attendance will be announced before the event as well. Parking will be available in Lots A, AA, and C (see campus map).
The opening speakers will include Rev. Dr. Donald J. Kirby, S.J., Le Moyne College and Rev. Dr. Brian Konkol, Dean of Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University. Both Le Moyne College and Syracuse University have made significant commitments to supporting student veterans in higher education. Several U.S. veterans who served in Afghanistan will provide perspectives on the U.S. withdrawal and its impact on them and their comrades: Carlos Cervantes, US Army Veteran; Carlos Prillwitz, US Army Veteran; and Zac Lois, a former Green Beret and local social studies teacher, who is coordinating efforts to evacuate military allies and their families from Afghanistan. Deemed the Pineapple Express, the group headed up by Lois is comprised of retired U.S. servicemembers and has assisted many of those seeking to leave Afghanistan..
Abdul Saboor Sakhizad, a former NATO Cultural advisor and translator, and recipient of a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), will comment on his journey to the U.S. and his efforts to assist other Afghan interpreters and their families in leaving the country. Dr. Bill Cross, a local psychologist and Vietnam veteran, will comment on the parallels between the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and that of Afghanistan, addressing how to make sense of the aftermath of messy and morally ambiguous conflicts. In conclusion, Rev. Dr. Wesley Fleming, VA Chaplain, will address how he works with veterans to address the moral injuries left in the aftermath of war. Following the remarks of the scheduled speakers, the floor will be opened to all audience members for questions, commentary, reflection, and discussion.
Eileen Schell, Professor of Writing and Rhetoric and Coordinator of the Moral Injury Project at Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel stated that this event is meant to “create space for veterans and community members to engage in storytelling, reflection, deep listening, and discussion about what this conflict has meant to us collectively and individually and to understand the long-term impact of this war on us all.”
Jennifer Reddy, Associate Director of Continuing Education at Le Moyne College and Veterans Services Coordinator at Le Moyne College hopes that “the forum will provide an opportunity for discussion and listening while avoiding polarized partisan debates and finger pointing, given the fact that four presidential administrations presided over this twenty-year war.”
The event is co-sponsored by Veterans Services and the Student Veterans Association of Le Moyne College and the Moral InjuryProject at Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel.
Queries associated with the event can be made to: Dr. Eileen E. Schell at email@example.com and the event host Jennifer Reddy, Associate Director, Continuing Education, Le Moyne College firstname.lastname@example.org
In compliance with COVID protocols at Le Moyne College, attendees must wear masks at the event. A virtual option for attendance will be announced before the event. For more information, see the Moral Injury Project website.